Rob Manfred, MLB commissioner: Losing games to lockout is a ‘disastrous outcome.

ORLANDO (Fla.) — Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred described the possibility that regular-season games will be missed due to the league's lockout as “a terrible outcome”. However, he called himself an “optimist” who said, “I believe there will be an agreement in the time it takes to play our regular schedule.”

At the conclusion of Thursday's quarterly owners meetings at Waldorf Astoria Orlando Manfred refused to postpone spring training, despite the wide chasm between players and the league over a new collective bargaining arrangement that nearly guarantees pitchers and catchers will not report to camps next week.

MLB plans to present a proposal to MLB Players Association (Saturday), when the sides meet in New York. This will be the fifth meeting since Manfred shut out the players Dec. 2.

Manfred stated, “You are always one step closer to making an agreement.” That's the art and science of this process. Everybody does a move. We'll do more moves Saturday to allow for flexibility. What seemed like a huge gap in this or that topic isn’t so big anymore.

The first baseball work stoppage in over a quarter century is now 70 days old. It's the second-longest baseball strike in history, behind only the 232-day strike which forced the cancellation of 1994 World Series. However, no regular-season games were affected by it.

The most likely factor to accelerate talks between the union-league is the fear of missing games. The March 31 Opening Day could be threatened if the parties don't reach an agreement on a new CBA before the end of next month.

Since the lockout began, talks between the sides have been rare. Between the last pre-lockout proposal from the union and MLB's response, 43 days passed. Since then, three bargaining sessions have been held on core economics. The last was on February 1. MLB asked for federal mediator assistance to help close the large gap between the parties regarding a variety of key issues. The MLBPA opposed the use of a mediator and asked the league to instead return to the negotiating tables.

“You are always just one step away from reaching an agreement. That's the art and science of this process. Everyone makes a move. That's why we'll be making more moves on Saturday. This creates flexibility on both sides and makes it seem like there was a big gap on one topic or another.

Rob Manfred

The principals, Bruce Meyer and Dan Halem, will face many obstacles once they have done so. In interviews and social media posts, the player leadership stated that getting players paid younger and stopping service-time manipulation are top priorities for the union. The league has made significant progress in recent years and is now seeking to return to the status quo.

The union hosted its own meetings during the three days of owners meeting. There was a Tuesday session in Phoenix with more than 100 players, followed by sessions in West Palm Beach and Tampa on Wednesday. Players have been vocal in criticizing Manfred, the league, and their lack of reasonableness in negotiations. They point to skyrocketing franchise prices as an indication that salaries should increase and not decline as they have done for four consecutive years.

Manfred answered a question Thursday on whether investing in a baseball team was a wise investment. “If you look at the price of a franchise, the cash invested during ownership, and then the sale price, historically the return on those investments are lower than you get in stock market. It's a lot higher risk.

Over the past 20 years, according to Statista, MLB franchise values have grown at nearly twice the rate of the S&P 500.

The union seeks a minimum wage of $775,000, $100 million bonus for pre-arbitration and the opportunity for high-achieving newcomers to earn a full season of service, even if it doesn't take up a whole season. Nonplayoff teams will also be eligible for an eight-pick draft lottery. The league proposes a minimum salary of $615,000 and a $10 million bonus pool. This system rewards high-achieving rookies with draft picks.

Other issues remain unresolved. The union is seeking salary arbitration for all players with at minimum two years of service. The current threshold is three years with an exception for a small number of players with two or more years. MLB has refused to change revenue sharing or arbitration — it wanted to remove those issues from the table completely on the day that the lockout ended. This led to the famous seven-minute meeting which ended those discussions. The union is now seeking expansion to 14 playoff teams. The union responded with 12.

The most important issue of all, the competitive-balance taxes, has not been addressed since Dec. 1 when the players dropped their proposal to increase the threshold from $248 million, to $245 million. While the league had suggested a bump in the threshold from $210million to $214 million, it includes harsher penalties for exceeding that amount. It is possible that the next phase could be predicted by movement on the CBT.

They will begin on Saturday. This is because the league met with the owners and developed its strategy for the most important part of the nearly one-year-old negotiations: the point in which Opening Day is at risk.

Manfred stated, “In the history baseball, the only one who has reached a labor agreement that was not subject to dispute — and I did four — was me.” “Players and union representatives found a way to trust me enough during those four negotiations to make a deal. I'm still the same person that I was in 1998.

Leave a Comment